I am in Austin for the City Limits Music Festival this week and having a fantastic time. Props to Sam for hosting a bunch of us in his apartment while he has to contend with a brutal workload from his MBA program.
I will be dedicating an article to what a tremendous city Austin is however, first I must drop a little note about the Arcade Fire. I have been listening to the Arcade Fire religiously for about 3 years and their performance at Coachella in 2005 still stands as the best live performance I have ever had the good fortune of witnessing. The band’s popularity has soared in recent years, and I believe they have the ability and hunger to become a massive band on the scale of U2. Whenever I see a band I really admire begin to approach these levels of popularity I must admit that I become somewhat remorseful that soon they will be featured on an iTunes playlist with Maroon 5 and Daughtry. However, it’s not like I’m that edgy myself as the two music festivals I have participated in this year were attended by countless thousands. Essentially, I am a poseur whose musical tastes at one time could be considered eclectic but now seem to be skewing towards the Starbucks catalogue. It was virtually impossible for Arcade Fire to recreate then energy and thrill of that legendary Coachella performance but the tireless touring of the band has paid dividends as they easily held the huge audience in the palm of their hand. Perhaps, they lacked the “Holy Shit! People really like us!!” vibe they had a couple years ago however, the confidence and maturity of the band is readily apparent. They remind me of Tiger Woods sans the humungous white teeth and Buick. Although, he is a bit of a dork and might be a robot, the dude comes through in the clutch every single time. Every time the Arcade Fire perform they manage to turn the mutha out, give me goosebumps and put a weird grin on my face that is a mixture of admiration and envy.
As brilliant as the Arcade Fire was they were not even my favorite act of the weekend. The National were simply spectacular. They have a brooding style that is distinctive, intelligent and would be perfect in a dimly lit, smoky venue. I was somewhat unsure how their material would translate to a festival setting, especially since they were scheduled to play in the middle of the day and not at night. Luckily, we decided to make the commitment of an 8 hour day to catch their performance in the baking heat and we rewarded for our perseverance. The National gave a passionate performance and the massive sound the band produced was nothing short of stellar. They even altered the tempo of the songs to play to the audience a little more. The National are a band at the height of their powers so make sure you catch them if they roll into your town. I was actually surprised that my girlfriend Kathleen was still hanging out with me at the end of the show and not fighting to get backstage so engrossing was their 1 hour set. It was also amusing that the lead singer kept mentioning how hot it was but was still outfitted in the standard skinny jeans. He would have looked pretty ridiculous singing songs of heartbreak and despair in cargo shots and rainbows however.